The December 2001 Challenge: offered by Twyla Jane

“A seed of doubt once planted, sown deep had begun to grow and crack the very foundation that united them.” Incorporate this into your story whether it be text or theme. Any AU. Can be anything from drama to dare I say humor. Oh did I say that Nathan has to be one of the main players and mind you not just as a healer…? Oh yes I know I am evil but I could have asked you to include a barrel of oil, dynamite and some pissed off reptiles … (oh my where did that come from????).


Trust in your friends

Chris Larabee pulled at the ropes that bound his hands behind his back. He ignored the stares that dared him to try something. He wasn't only going to try something, he was going to kill the goddamned bastards. Flesh tore as he attempted to free his arms. Blood dripped to the floor leaving a puddle that was growing in size.

"Leave it, Chris," said Vin.

Blue eyes glared sideways at the sharpshooter, a stare that told his friend he wasn't going to leave one of them alive.

"He's right, Chris."

Buck knew the look but it wasn't going to work out the way Chris wanted it to. If the man kept going he was going to be the one to die.

They had been caught off guard, all of them, seven men who were hired to protect this town because of their skills, had been captured and were now tied to seven chairs in the saloon at an early hour of 3am.

"We need one of you to help us convince the bank manager to open the safe," said Dobson, the leader of the small band of bank robbers.

"Take him," Nathan Jackson lifted his chin in the direction of the man who sat opposite him, "the gambler, he'll talk the manager into opening the safe."

Ezra Standish lifted his head sharply. With wide eyes full of disbelief, he glanced from Jackson to the rest of his friends.


"You can do it Ezra. You can talk your way into or out of anything," said Jackson.


"No buts Ezra, if someone here is going to die, it may as well be you!"

"Nathan!" Chris Larabee yelled at him.

"You've said it yourself, Chris, if Standish dies it wouldn't be a major loss, we could go on without him.

"Chris?" Ezra locked eyes with Larabee.

"I have not and would not ever say that, Ezra, you're one of us now and that's how it's going to stay. You're not going with these assholes. I'll go."

"Mister." Nathan demanded the man's attention. Once he had it he said, "The man is a con man, he makes a living of using his words to con people out of their money and homes. He's a cheater when it comes to playing cards and doesn't regret taking every penny from the poor farmers or ranch hands that play against him. If you take him no one would get hurt or killed. You'll only be wanted for robbery."

"What if I kill him?"

Nathan shrugged his shoulders. "I wouldn't care and I doubt if the law would be very upset about a liar and a cheat dying while robbing a bank."

Dobson smiled, he was starting to get the idea. "I take it you don't like this guy?" With his gun he nudged the side of the gambler's skull.

"He's a Southerner, you know, the kind that kept my people as slaves. Of course I don't like him. I want to watch him strung up and whipped like his kind watched when my friends were beaten to death."

"Perhaps you would like to kill him yourself?"

"I would enjoy killing any man with an accent like his."

"Nathan, what the hell are you talking about?" Josiah struggled to get out of his chair.

"I'm talking about what I've always felt. I've put up with his crap for too long and I'm sick of it."

"Let's go," said Dobson.

Two of his men moved to the back of Ezra's chair and untied his hands. They then forced him to his feet.

"That one too." Dobson pointed his gun in Jackson's direction.

Nathan was also taken from his chair and both men were led out of the saloon.

"If you hurt him, Nathan you'll have me to answer to!" Chris yelled at the retreating backs.

Nathan was forced to walked beside Ezra, the gun pressing against his back didn't give him a choice. He could feel the tension drifting from Ezra's form and he cringe. Was Ezra scared? Normally he wouldn't be, the man would risk his life to save the others or any innocent bystander. He would do brainless things to stop the bad guy and it caused the rest of the team to fear for his life. But how did he feel when it came to the thought of one of his own friends killing him. He didn't think it would be fear that he was feeling but confusion.

Thoughts would be running around in Ezra's head, thoughts that would confuse and hurt him. Turning his head, he watched his friend's face. He was unable to read him. Ezra had his poker face fixed tightly in place. It was time to get out of this mess so he could repair what he had done.

There were four of them, two in front and two behind. The men behind had their guns out, the men in front didn't. They must be feeling safe thinking that the black man was willing to murder a fellow lawman. With hands untied Nathan spun around taking the man's gun arm with him. He was please to notice out of the corner of his eye that Ezra had reacted to his sudden movement and was doing the same.

Guns fired and bodies fell to the ground. When it was over only two men were left standing.

"Nathan, I never knew you were capable lying so convincingly."

"You knew I was lying?"

"Of course." Ezra replied.

"But how . . ."

"I can read people Nathan, I've grown up reading people. I know when someone is lying."

"But the look on your face when I said it."

"I couldn't be smiling could I. If I didn't play along they would have doubted you."

"Chris and Josiah believed me," said Nathan.

"Why not go and find out." Ezra patted Nathan on the back, more of a thank you that a force of movement to get him going.

Nathan stopped just before the swinging doors. The fear in his gut told him that Chris was going to react violently to his lies. Chris would be correct though.

He had planted a doubt of seed in their minds; doubt that was capable of tearing the group apart. The result would be life threatening to all of them. They worked as one, knowing each other's moves and thoughts. They had to stay together.

Ezra pushed his friend into the saloon and waited for what he knew would happen.

"What the hell took you two so long!"

"We ran into some trouble." Ezra explained.

"Trouble? Why you good for nothin' son-of-a-bitch." Chris began to bang his chair against the floor in a fit of anger.

"Now, now, Chris. You wouldn't want to tear anymore skin off those arms."

"Nathan untie me so I can beat the shit out that . . . that . . . Nathan!"

"He's right Chris, you're going to have to calm down before we let you go."

"How about we untie the rest of our friends Mr. Jackson."

"I'll start with JD," said Nathan.

Four men were untied. The fifth man had to wait a bit longer. He was forced to calm down before he was released.

The End.